Declining Trans-Alaska crude oil pipeline flows put a chill on operations: Fuel for Thought

Trans-Alaska Pipeline System operators are taking new steps to keep North Slope crude oil warm enough to flow through the 800-mile pipeline during cold months of the Alaskan winter. In 2011, a mid-winter disruption in operations almost resulted in oil congealing into sludge, to a point where the pipeline would be difficult to restart. Since then, operators have been adding heat during the winter by recirculating oil through pipe loops at pump stations. In 2015 they added a plug-in heating unit at a remote gate valve in Interior Alaska, where winter temperatures drop below minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit, said Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. spokeswoman Michelle Egan. The pipeline company is battling a gradual, long-term cooling of the oil temperature as production from the North Slope drops and as lower volumes reduce natural mechanisms that previously warmed the oil, such as the friction of fluids against pipe walls. During winter, oil that now enters the pipeline at 104 degrees on the North Slope drops to 40 degrees by the time it reaches the Valdez Marine Terminal in southern Alaska. Egan said TAPS operators now work to keep the temperature above 32 degrees, the point at which ice can form at low

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Source: CTRM Center

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